updated 3/24/2005 6:04:01 PM ET 2005-03-24T23:04:01

A U.N. report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri concluded that Lebanon’s investigation into the killing wasn’t satisfactory and a new international investigation is needed.

The report, released Thursday, says there was a “distinct lack of commitment” by Lebanese authorities to investigate the crime, and the investigation was not carried out “in accordance with acceptable international standards.”

Hariri was killed in an explosion that killed 17 other people. The Lebanese opposition has blamed Syria and its Lebanese allies, who have both denied any involvement.

The report does not directly assign blame, saying the causes could not be determined.

‘Acute polarization’
“However, it is clear that the assassination took place in a political and security context marked by an acute polarization around the Syrian influence in Lebanon,” the report said.

It also says Syrian military intelligence shares responsibility to the extent that it and Lebanese security services failed to provide “security, protection, law and order” in Lebanon.

The opposition and Hariri’s family have insisted on an international investigation, saying they have no trust in the Lebanese probe. The report implicitly backed that sentiment, saying the Lebanese investigation “lacks the confidence of the population necessary for its results to be accepted.”

Hariri’s killing led to turmoil in Lebanon. Mass demonstrations forced the resignation of the Lebanese government and intensified the international campaign for Syria to withdraw its troops from the country.

Syria has now pulled back its troops and intelligence agents into eastern Lebanon toward the border and has been promising to work out their complete removal with the pro-Syrian government in Beirut.

Syria ‘heavy-handed and inflexible’
The investigation was carried out by a team led by deputy Irish Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the behest of the U.N. Security Council.

In a letter accompanying the report, Annan endorsed the recommendation for a new investigation.

In his report, Fitzgerald also faults Syria for interfering in the governing of Lebanon “in a heavy-handed and inflexible manner.”

Without prejudice to the results of the investigation, it is obvious that this atmosphere provided the backdrop for the assassination of Mr. Hariri.”

The report went on to demand an international independent commission with the authority to interrogate witnesses, conduct searches and other tasks. Fitzgerald said such an inquiry would be impossible without Lebanon’s cooperation.

Opening for independent investigation
The report also said it was doubtful that a proper investigation could be carried out with the current Lebanese security apparatus in office.

Later in the day, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud told Annan to do “what is necessary” to unveil the truth.

The pro-Syrian Lebanese government has previously rejected an international inquiry, saying it would cooperate with foreign investigators but it was a matter of national sovereignty not to allow an international probe.

But a statement from the Lebanese president’s office late Thursday said Annan spoke to Lahoud and informed him of the broad outlines of the report presented by a U.N. fact-finding team sent to Lebanon after the bombing.

The report said the explosion was caused by a TNT charge of about 1,000 kilograms, most likely above the ground.

The U.N. Security Council may now take up the issue, possibly by laying the groundwork for a new probe.

“I expect the council to support the idea that there should be an independent investigation,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said.

Members of the opposition praised the report. “It conforms totally with the political vision of the Lebanese opposition,” said Ghattas Khoury, a lawmaker from Hariri’s parliamentary bloc.  “We have said there was negligence by the (Lebanese) security apparatuses to the point of collusion and the report came to say that this negligence was organized, which could reach the point of collusion.”

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